"This means that new and existing titles optimized for Mango features like fast app switching, background audio, multiple and double-sided Live Tiles, better Search integration, and more will begin publishing in a matter of days," said Todd Brix, Microsoft's senior director for Windows Phone marketplace, in a blog post.
Brix said Windows Phone users who are running a pre-release version of Mango will be able to download and run the new apps almost immediately, but general consumers will have to wait until Mango is made officially available. Brix did not specify a release date, but most observers believe the Mango update will drop sometime in the fall. The 30,000 apps currently available for the pre-Mango version of Windows Phone 7 software also will run on Mango.
Microsoft also shipped a release candidate (RC) of Windows Phone SDK 7.1 for developers. The kit includes a "Go Live" license that allows developers to publish their Mango apps on the Windows Phone App Hub. It also includes the completed Marketplace Test Kit, which lets developers test their apps to ensure they meet Microsoft's technical certification requirements before uploading to the App Hub.
"This should dramatically improve your chances of passing the cert the first time," said Brix. He said the final version of Windows Phone SDK 7.1 will be released in the fall.
Mango adds 500 new features, from major improvements like multitasking to numerous, transparent back-end services, according to Microsoft.
A feature called Threads lets users glide between text, Windows Live Messenger, and Facebook chat within the same "conversation." Groups lets users receive and send messages from predefined social or business circles directly to and from the Smart Tiles home screen. Contact Cards have been enhanced to include feeds from Twitter and LinkedIn, in addition to the networks they previously supported. Local Scout, which is integrated with Bing, yields hyper-local search results for dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Mango also adds long-awaited multitasking, which lets users move freely between applications and pick up and resume where they left off. 4G wireless support is embedded, and for security-conscious enterprise customers, Mango adds support for various rights management technologies. For example, it lets authorized users open emails tagged with restrictions such as "do not forward" or "do not copy." Additionally, it beefs up integration with authoring and collaboration tools like Lync and Office 365.
Web browsing is enhanced with native support for Internet Explorer 9, which on Windows Phone 7 will drive hardware-accelerated graphics rendering as it does on the PC.
With a share of just under 6%, Microsoft's mobile Windows products significantly trail RIM BlackBerry, Apple iOS, and Google Android in U.S. mobile OS shipments, according to the most recent data from Comscore. Microsoft is counting on Mango, and its partnership with Nokia, to help it catch up. Nokia has said it may begin shipping Mango-equipped phones in the U.S., later this year, but that the bulk of its Windows Phone 7 offerings will arrive in 2012.
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